Learning to Make Jewelry
One of the many wonderful things about making jewelry is that it is, like any other hobby, an opportunity to learn something new. No matter your skill level or area of expertise, you will always find a new technique to learn, a new color palette to discover or a new bead or finding that changes the way you design. With that in mind, our designers have put together some lists of materials you will need - and their applications - to help you grow and learn.
Beginning Beaders: Karla learned to bead when she was 5 and her grandmother taught her to crochet, Susie taught herself, and Shanna learned because she wanted to repair some of her own jewelry that had broken. Different things motivate different people to learn and we all learn in different ways. Maybe you want to learn because you need a creative outlet. Maybe you want to learn because you realize how much more affordable jewelry is when you make it yourself. Whatever your reason, here are some tools and supplies you need to get your beading adventure started.
Tools and supplies you will need:
The best advice we can give to jewelry making "newbies" is to pick a few projects and/or videos you like and buy the supplies and tools the designers recommend. This will help you a) learn the basics, b) gather some supplies, tools and beads, c) learn about bead sizes and shapes and d) get a feel for how colors and patterns work within a defined space.
- Nipper Tool. This tool can be used to cut wire, beading wire and thread. It is a good - and inexpensive - versatile cutting tool.
- Beading Wire. You will use different beading wires for different applications but, generally speaking, you will want to use a .015" or .018" (Susie and Karla prefer .018", Shanna generally uses .015"). The 49-strand is professional grade and is the best, but 19-strand works well too, especially if you use average sized gemstone, pearl and crystal beads in your designs.
- Crimp Beads. Crimp beads are a must-have item if you want to create beaded necklaces and bracelets. They are what you use to secure your beading wire to your clasp, so it is important that you buy high quality crimp beads. All of our designers mainly use sterling silver or silver filled crimps. Because the designers use .015" or .018" wire, they use 2x2mm crimps. This is the most common size and the size you will use most often. (If you don't plan on making a lot of silver jewelry, you can also use base metal crimps: antique brass, gunmetal, copper - OR you can use crimp covers to conceal your silver crimp beads.)
- Crimp Tool. Shanna uses the Designer Crimper, Karla uses the Magical Crimp Forming Tool and Susie uses chain nose pliers. It is a matter of preference which tool you prefer, but you will need a tool that secures your crimp beads on beading wire. (The Designer Crimper and chain nose pliers can be used to put crimp covers on as well, if you are using them.)
- Round Beads. You will want to buy specialty beads like gemstones or crystals or pearls when you are doing a specific project, but it is a good idea to always have 3mm, 4mm and 5mm rounds on hand. Here's why: If you are working with 10mm gemstone beads, for example, and you need to end your piece, it is a good idea to taper down the size of your beads so your toggle will close easily and properly. These beads also make great spacers and stoppers.
- Seed Beads. Seed beads are a staple in any beader's stash. They can be used as spacers or to create simple multi-stranded necklaces and bracelets when straight strung. Many people think of them as being used primarily for stitching and weaving, but they have much more simple applications as well.
- Head pins. Headpins are pieces of wire that have a flat or beaded bottom so you can drop beads on them and wire wrap them. Most commonly used to create drops for earring designs, they can also be used to create drop beaded bracelets and necklaces. You will want to go with a metal that matches your beads and style. If you want to work with a lot of silver, for example, you will want silver plated, silver filled or sterling silver headpins. If you want more of an antique look, you can use base metals such as antique brass, gunmetal, or antique copper. Our designers keep plenty on hand in a variety of styles and finishes. They mostly use 20 gauge, but recommend that beginners start with a 22 or 24 gauge. (A tip about wire gauge: the higher the number, the softer the wire. 24 gauge is softer and more flexible than 20 gauge.)
- Eye pins. Eye pins can help you connect pieces of chain to create wire wrapped necklace and bracelet designs. When you are just starting out, eye pins are wonderful for creating simple earrings when used with headpins. Shanna's Glitz and Glam Earrings project gives you a good idea of how to use headpins and eye pins to create earrings. As with headpins, you will want to use metals that match your beads and/or taste and in a gauge with which you are comfortable working.
- Round Nose Pliers. When working with headpins and eye pins, you will need round nose pliers to create perfect wire wrapped loops.
- Ear wires. When you use head pins and eye pins to create earrings, you need ear wires from which to hang your dangles. Choose a finish that matches the beads and findings used in your design. Most ear wires are nickel free, so even those with allergies can enjoy your designs.
- Chain Nose Pliers. As stated earlier, chain nose pliers can be used to secure your crimp beads and apply crimp covers. They have many other application as well: creating wire wrapped jewelry, opening and closing jump rings, opening and closing eye pin loops.
- Clasps and Toggles. In order to create necklaces and bracelets, you will need something to secure your jewelry while allowing those pieces to be taken on and off with ease. Clasps and toggles help with that. Generally speaking, you will want to choose your closure based on the size of your beads. If you are using 8mm beads, for example, a 10mm to 12mm clasp will be the perfect size. Some designers buy their favorite clasp in bulk and use it for nearly every beaded project while others prefer to use a clasp that really speaks to the piece they are creating. The choice is all yours.
- Jump Rings and Split Rings. Jump rings help you finish pieces and connect pieces of bead or wire work. You open and close jump rings with 2 pair of chain nose pliers; you will hear a snap when the jump ring is secure. Split rings are like key rings and function in the same way as jump rings, but are believed to be more secure because the wire is double up. Like all other findings mentioned, you will want to use jump rings and split rings that are size appropriate (a little smaller than the beads you are using) and that match your other components nicely.
- Bead Board. A bead board is a great thing to have, especially for beginners. It has markers and multiple trays to allow you to lay out your beads and findings before you begin stringing so you can plan your design. There are also small storage trays that allow you to store excess beads.
- Bead Mats. Even if you use a bead board, it is still a good idea to keep bead mats handy. They keep your beads from rolling around and provide a soft comfortable space for your hands and arms to rest while you work.
Intermediate Beaders: Once you have mastered basic skills like stringing, basic wire wrapping and earring construction, you may want to learn something new. What would that be? When it comes to making jewelry, the possibilities can seem endless. You will know you are an intermediate level beader when you start seeing inspiration everywhere and you start looking to combine your different skills and techniques to create unique jewelry designs of your own. Here are a few products our designers recommend as you delve deeper into the world of beading:
Once you have mastered the basics and started exploring new techniques, tools and beads, you will start to find a style and discover new skill sets. This is when beading gets really fun!
- Artistic Wire. Artistic, or craft, wire has many uses. You can use it to create your own findings such as eye pins or jump rings. You can use it to create wire wrapped bracelets and wire rings and even wire wrap pendants. There are all kinds of fun tools and supplies to help you work with wire and it comes in many different colors and sizes, so you can find many great uses for it.
- Chain by the Foot. Working with chain can be very fun. It will open up many possibilities in what you can do with your designs. You can make charm or drop beaded bracelets, for example. You can make your own extender chains. You can make chain earrings. Make multi-stranded chain necklaces or bracelets. Make beaded sections that connect to chain. You really can do just about anything with chain by the foot!
- Leather and Cording. Leather can be used to make simple necklaces displaying a charm or pendant or it can be used for more complicated projects. Rat tail and satin cording can be used for things like Kumihimo or just as a simple stringing material. Once you have learned the techniques involved in basic beading and stringing, you will find working with other materials is very enjoyable and adds interest to your jewelry designs.
- Fireline or Bead Thread. From peyote stitches to right angle weave to an embellished ladder stitch, you will find yourself immersed in the wonderful world of bead weaving. Many are intimidated by it, but start with a few simple stitches and you might just discover that you thoroughly enjoy weaving and that its applications, techniques and uses seem endless.
- Beading Needles. If you are investing in beading thread, you will need needles. The assorted pack works well because it has size 10 and size 12 needles, so you will have the size you need for the project at hand.
Advanced Beaders: When you know quite a bit about stitching and weaving, working with chain, miscellaneous stringing and wire wrapping techniques - and you know how to combine those into one great piece of jewelry - you are probably an advanced beader. Having said that, you have probably discovered that you are more advanced in some areas than others either because they make more sense to you or are just more interesting. Shanna, for example, would consider herself advanced in stitching and weaving techniques but more intermediate in working with wire. (Her first woven project was actually the puffy heart pendant, which is like skiing a black without ever taking a skiing lesson in your life and is NOT recommended!) It is perfectly normal to prefer certain things and not others. When you recognize that, you will want to become an "expert" at those things you enjoy. Subscribe to beading magazines that are specific to your interests. Watch videos that teach you a new type of stitch or a new way to work with wire. Submit your designs to magazines, share them with friends and family, or sell them online or to a bead shop. Share your accomplishments - and creativity - with the world!
Check out our free online jewelry making videos to learn new skills. From basic beading to stitching and wire wrapping, we show you the techniques you need to master to become an expert beader!
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